Schaefer Music Festival - Central Park, New York 1967-76

Schaefer Music Festival - Central Park, New York 1967-76
Authored By John Nicholson

If you live in New York and are of a certain age, you will likely fondly remember the Schaefer Music Festival gigs which ran from 1967 to 1976 and were held at Wollman Rink in Central Park.

The first was held in 1967, sponsored by Rheingold Breweries and was just two shows. July 5: The Young Rascals; The Jimi Hendrix Experience; Len Chandler and July 7 when Phil Oches played. But in 1968 the F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company took over the sponsorship, guaranteed to make up the $200,000 difference between costs and $1 ticket sales 

This was the sort of sponsorship deal that we rarely see any more. Basically, the aim was to make tickets really cheap at just a dollar. Today it is more typical to try and maximise revenue, isn’t it? Those were more egalitarian days. Schafer surely knew that being associated with a groovy scene and not looking like The Man trying to screw every last drop of cash out of people, would be good for the company in the long run.

Club owner and musician Hilly Kristal co-founded the series with producer and concert promoter Ron Delsener and in 1968 between 24th June and August 24th put on 30 shows that featured jazz, blues, folk and rock acts. Some of the more notable shows were June 29: Moby Grape with Muddy Waters, July 24: Vanilla Fudge and Ultimate Spinach (sounds like two items from a menu) August 3: Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention with Buddy Guy August 19: Traffic with Tim Buckley.

It seems incredible that about 7,000 people would pay just a buck for such gigs. No wonder the series was popular with quality acts like that on the bill. So in 1969 from 16th June to 23rd August they hosted 34 shows. Led Zeppelin on 21st July with BB King! July 16: Ten Years After; Fleetwood Mac and Spencer Davis Group played on a cracking triple headed Brit bill. 

And so it continued every year with 30 or more shows featuring everyone who was anyone in rock n roll. Looking at the lists I think only the Rolling Stones and latterly Wings are missing from the big rock acts of the day to play.

The last shows were by Crosby & Nash in September 1976. By then tickets were $3 but as such still really cheap. It brought to a close eight great years and hundreds of summer in the city gigs. 

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